Several people have claimed that Norma Khouri’s deeply affecting tale of honour killings in Jordan, Forbidden Love or Honour Lost, is a fabrication. Malcolm Knox broke the story. In interviews and at book readings before the allegations were made, Khouri spoke emotionally about her friendship with ‘Dalia’, who was murdered by her family when they discovered Dalia’s romance with a Christian army officer.

Khouri says she can prove her story is true, but has shown no signs of coming up with a credible defence. All she would have to do, as this activist points out, is to give women’s organisations in Jordan the details of Dalia’s murder–it strains credibility that Khouri would be unable to do that.Khouri’s publishers have withdrawn the book for the moment, even though cynical observers point out that fakes are usually good for business.

One line of argument I’ve heard from several friends runs like this: Khouri’s book drew attention to the despicable practice of honour killings anyway, so does it really matter whether she was writing fact or fiction?

It matters. This interview, for example, was given by Khouri long before the allegations surfaced, and she speaks of ‘Dalia’ with deep emotion:

‘I want the world to know Dalia the way I knew her,’ Ms. Khouri said in an interview here. ‘And I want them to know that she represents thousands of women who are still dying, and who had brothers and sisters and friends in their lives who are missing them the way I am missing Dalia.’

‘From the time I lost Dalia I became obsessed with honor killings,’ Ms. Khouri said. ‘Before, I was always the quiet one. Now I won’t shut up.'”

For all those who read the book and believed it, or who cried at her readings, or who sympathised deeply with Khouri’s tales of struggle, it does matter. If she did make it up, she laid claim to a story that wasn’t hers, sympathy that she hadn’t earned, and a life that never existed.